Everton: Lukaku Would Be Right To Stick With The Toffees!

Lukaku Everton/Chelsea

What a difference a couple weeks can make in football. Earlier in the month I stated that Everton needed to get their finger out in terms of transfer dealings in order to get the best possible start under new boss Ronald Koeman.

At that stage their only new signing was experienced Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

But soon after the article was published Everton began to hasten their operations in the transfer market. Defender John Stones finally left the team to join Man City in a £47.5m move. In return Everton splashed out £7m to bring in battling midfielder Idrissa Gueye from Aston Villa, then around £12m was spent to bring in Welsh captain Ashley Williams to help shore up the defence and then last week Koeman brought in Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie for a reported £25m.

The new signings have shown that there is definitely an intent with Everton this season to finish in and around the top six places in the Premier League. The assured performances of former Barnsley youngster Mason Holgate have also given the Everton faithful more reason for renewed optimism.

More big signings could also be on their way to Goodison this season with England number one Joe Hart, Deportivo striker Lucas Perez Martinez,  Sunderland central defender Lanciné Koné and Porto’s creative attacker Yacine Brahimi are all being heavily linked with the Toffees at the moment.

A feel good factor now surrounds the club again and the manager has already worked his magic on the training ground and it’s been recognised on the park. After two games the side have four points and are still unbeaten. The hope is that the side will only go from strength to strength once the transfer window shuts and all the new recruits settle in with the rest of the squad.

After coming from behind to beat West Brom 2-1 on Saturday, Ronald Koeman told the press that star striker Romelu Lukaku was keen on staying with the Merseyside club for at least another campaign.

The Belgian hitman had been linked with a return to Chelsea all summer. Now there’s still eight days left before transfer window slams shut and with Romelu having Mino Riaola as his agent, we can’t say for definite that he’ll still be with the Merseyside club come September the first, but it is looking more likely.

I think that’s the best decision for Lukaku at this stage of his career.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the powerful forward is still only twenty-three years old. With that in mind, he’s still learning as a footballer and would benefit from staying on at a good team like Everton as he’s almost guaranteed first team football there. He would learn from playing under Koeman and develop further, especially as the side looks to be on it’s way back up.

If he were to re-join Chelsea or join one of Europe’s other elite clubs, then there could be a good chance that he’d be rotated more often or be benched once again. At this stage that could really stall his career.

In the last three seasons Lukaku has played 127 times for the Toffees and scored 61 goals. That’s a terrific record and only Sergio Aguero has scored more Premier League goals in the last four seasons but there’s still room for improvements in his game.

This season his personal aim should be to score twenty or more in the Premier League, his tally last term was eighteen strikes (which is his best so far).

It could also be argued that the frontman needs to do better in the bigger games. In Euro 2016 he failed to score in the knock-out stages for Belgium and he missed big penalties against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup (whilst at Chelsea) and in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against Man United last term. To be honest he also missed a few other decent chances in that vital game against United.

The Everton number ten also needs to work on his defensive contributions for the team. Many a top class manager wants more than just goals from their frontmen. They like a powerful striker who can assert themselves in their own boxes when defending set-pieces like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Most also like players that can defend from the front who harass defenders whenever they are on the ball, a bit like Diego Costa (albeit most would prefer it with less aggression). Like many at Everton, Lukaku was failed by Roberto Martinez and the Spaniard’s lack of a defence nous. That could and should change under Koeman.

Romelu also needs to keep improving his decision making. He still plays with the naivety of a youth when he takes on an extra player rather than play an easy ball to a teammate who is in a better position.

If Lukaku can work on these perceived weaknesses, then he’ll improve his chances of becoming a world-class forward.

He really needs to see this summer as a chance gained rather than a chance missed.

At Goodison this year he’ll be afforded more time to hone his game and become an even better hitman. If the feel good factor around the club continues then he could be given all the opportunities needed to break his personal scoring records and see Everton improve and challenge for a European place.

Then maybe next summer could see him secure a move that he seems to crave, well Romelu or his agent!

Why I’m Not Fussed By Scott Brown’s Scottish Retirement

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Today Scotland captain Scott Brown announced his retirement from international football. Many pundits and punters are morning his loss to our international squad.

I met the news with apathy.

For me, Scott Brown hasn’t had too many storming performances in a Scotland shirt. During the last qualifying campaign he often looked tired, slow and clumsy.

Now there’s no doubt that he’s come back to Celtic this preseason with a renewed vigour and energy. But we’ve seen that from him before and then he tails off. He knows that and I bet Brendan Rodgers knows that.

Brown said this about his retirement:

“It’s no secret that I’ve suffered some injuries in my career and once you get over 30 you have to protect your body more,”

So at thirty-one, with the injuries he’s had, he needs to manage his game time better. So he has quit the international team in the hope of prolonging his Celtic career.

I have never been overly fussed by footballers retiring from international duty in favour of prolonging their career when they reach thirty or older. It makes sense and I think Brown will have a better season because of it, as he’ll have more rest time.

But at the same time I also think that when they’ve made that decision then it’s better for Scottish fans to look forward and not on what might have been or what we might miss. The fact is that the player no longer feels he can represent his country, so let him go and carry on.

I also think it’s one position that we have decent replacements.

I think Darren Fletcher can step up and regain his regular spot in the Scotland team and become the leader again. He managed to play thirty-eight times in the Premier League last term for West Brom and he performed to a good standard.

He’ll be ideal to mop up in the midfield. I think a problem with Fletcher and Brown was that they never looked to be a good partnership. They’d often perform better when playing beside someone else. So don’t be surprised if Fletcher actually improves if he gets the armband back.

We also have James McArthur, who is another solid Premier League performer. Maybe others like Ryan Jack and some of the younger lads can come in and impress.

Our main problem in midfield hasn’t been finding the leaders or the bosses, it’s been finding that player who can create from the middle of the park.

Brown like Barry Ferguson and Fletcher before him have often been let down by not having the right partner in beside him and we really need to solve that problem.

I honestly think that Scott Brown has made the right decision for his career and I also believe that Celtic will profit from this decision.

Good luck to him, but I am not going to miss him or worry about what happens next. Players retire all the time and we just need to evolve as a squad and look to improve.

Have Celtic Let Own Fans Down?

Paradise

For the last four years a lot of Celtic fans have been calling Rangers a new club and stating that the ‘Old Firm‘ fixture no longer exists.

Clearly no one has told Celtic’s Chief Executive Peter Lawwell and the Celtic board as they announced that tickets for the first clash between Celtic and Rangers this season, on September the tenth at Celtic Park, will cost an eye-watering £49!

In many ways the board have let down the Celtic support regarding this pricing stance.

Firstly it makes a mockery of any argument that the Old Firm no longer exists and that Celtic don’t need or want Rangers in the top flight. That fact is that the stadium will sell out no matter the price hike and it could probably sell-out two or three times over at that price too. Don’t forget that they are charging this expensive price against a team that’s just been promoted, and the only way they get away with it is because of the history that the two sets of fans have had in the past.

But even beyond pretty meaningless squabbles between the two clubs fans, Celtic by doing this to their own set of supporters are kind of showing the rest of Scottish football that it’s ok to charge  Celtic fans more for when they come to town.

Last season Celtic supporters groups were calling for a maximum £20 away ticket for an adult ticket. Yet their own club are asking for £29 for the home game against last season’s runners-up Aberdeen and then putting it up by another £20 to watch the newly promoted Gers side. Surely this decision will make it harder for away fans to change the minds of other Premiership rivals when the Hoops visit away stadia.

You then look at Celtic’s preseason lucrative trips to Ireland to play European giants Barcelona and Inter Milan. No doubt these games will also swell the coffers at Parkhead but it also shows little respect for those that turn up every other week to the east end of Glasgow to watch their side. I understand that football is now a business but never forget that the average fan is your biggest customer and you can’t continue to take advantage of that.

We should also remember that the club were formed to help a poverty stricken east end back in the 1880s. For me it kind of grates that money for the business is now paramount against anything else. That goes against the clubs tradition, a tradition that the Celtic fans are rightly proud of!

Listen people will pay the £49, we all know that. The board will see that demand as justification and that will be the end of the matter.

It’s also a Scottish problem and not just Celtic’s, as I believe most teams overprice their fans when it comes to tickets. To see our national team will cost the average family an absolute fortune! (And they haven’t qualified for anything in the last 18 years)

But for all that I really enjoy our game and see many positives within it, the ticket prices aren’t justifiable compared to the current product thats ‘s offer.

People are simply lining their own club’s bank balances due to what seems like an everlasting loyalty. But in most Scottish stadia we see plenty of gaps in the stands and that looks dreadful on our TV screens and that affords TV networks the perfect excuse to offer lower offers for the TV rights! It’s the same for sponsorship deals.

Once again this story highlights that certain head honchos that run our game and clubs have little regard for the average fan and the local communities. They’ll simply try milk them dry without offering much in the way of a return.

Early statement of intent from Manchester United

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In what started as a cagey affair at the Vitality Stadium, Manchester United eventually moved up through the gears and eased past Bournemouth in their first Premier League fixture under Jose Mourinho.

The 3-1 victory by no means saw a United side at full throttle, but the early signs suggest these players have put last season behind them and are ready to return to the summit of English football. At the time of writing, Mourinho’s team are 11/4 to win the league, but with a few more performances like this they could emerge as frontrunners for the title.

Superstar signing, Zlatan Ibrahimović, was impressive in his work rate and eagerness to bring other team members into the fray and there are early indications that a partnership between the Swede and Wayne Rooney is about to flourish. Last season’s top scorer in Ligue 1 clearly has the winning mentality required to succeed, and it is rubbing off on teammates.

Ander Herrera seems to have adapted well to his role in central midfield. He controlled the play well, and it meant that Rooney could charge forward with more freedom rather than having to drop back. The Spaniard was reminiscent of another of Mourinho’s old charges, John Obi Mikel who is currently competing in the Olympics with Nigeria, who are 5/1 to win the tournament in the Olympic betting. Herrera will be eager to draw similarities with one of Mourinho’s ex-Chelsea midfielders, as there is going to be fierce competition for places in the centre of the park this season.

The central defensive partnership between Daley Blind and new boy Eric Bailly looked solid, apart from the lapse of concentration that allowed the Cherries to get their goal. The Red Devils had one of the best defensive records in the league last season and this looks set to continue under the new manager. This was a United team without Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for most of the game, and it is exciting to think just how good they can be when they start to properly gel together as a team and have all the big players on at the same time. If Herrera can continue to dictate the play in the holding midfield positions, this will allow Paul Pogba, who is likely to replace Marouane Fellaini in the double pivot, to storm forward and attack.

Juan Mata had a reasonably good game and scored the opening goal, but he looked tired and slow at times. There are still question marks over the winger’s future under Mourinho. Mkhitaryan should be able to provide more pace from out wide on the right, the same way Anthony Martial does from the left.

The Red Devils now have the chance to build some momentum ahead of what will be the real test of how far they have come under Mourinho. On September 10th they entertain Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at Old Trafford, and if they can sweep aside their biggest rivals for the title, United must then be considered favourites to win the league.

Raheem Sterling Ready To Shine Under Pep’s Guidance

Raheem_Sterling

You could tell by watching Manchester City yesterday that Pep Guardiola’s ideas are going to take some getting used to.

City’s 2-1 win over Sunderland was good but it wasn’t perfect and Pep demands as much every week.

One player who seems to have caught on straight away was wideman Raheem Sterling.

Watching Sterling towards the end of last season and at the Euros, you got the feeling that he was void of any confidence and didn’t really know what was expected of him.

But Guardiola has obviously instilled that confidence back into Sterling’s play and told him to hug the touchline as much as possible and just attack opposing full-backs.

Raheem’s impact was immediate, in the fourth minute his direct running caused Sunderland left-back Patrick van Aanholt to rashly bring him down in the penalty area. Sergio Aguero dispatched the resulting penalty and City were one up within the first five minutes.

Sterling managed to torment both Sunderland full-backs as he switched from right to left wing. He was chasing the ball down all day, always willing to receive it and take on the opposition, often getting past the man in front of him. In fact no one took on their marker and beat them as many times as Sterling did yesterday in the Premier League.

After the game his manager was quick to heap praise on the English international:

“We need that – people who stay wide and have the quality one against one. He has the quality to play right or left, go to the byline or inside. He is a fighter. Of course we want more from him but we are very happy. He is a very nice guy and from the beginning I had a feeling this guy is good. I saw him many times playing for Liverpool and all my staff want to help him to see the real Sterling.”

Those quotes from Pep almost show me that Sterling’s £49m move last summer was done with the mindset that Guardiola was coming in as manager this summer. They couldn’t hang around as Sterling asked for a transfer away from Liverpool and Arsenal were hovering around him. But ultimately he was bought because he was a Pep type of player.

But last term’s boss Manuel Pellegrini couldn’t really get the best from the twenty-one year old and it showed throughout the season.

Raheem Sterling needs to also heed Pep’s slight warning about wanting more. He needs to add more goals and assists to his name. In his debut season he scored six in the Premier League and created just two assists.

Yesterday Raheem only managed to have a 78% rate on his successful passes, we know his manager will want that stat to be up in the higher eighties if possible.

With that all being said, Sterling deservedly won the man of the match award and has started the season in the right manner. Yes he will have to develop and make improvements but you can see that he’s happy again, managed to get ninety minutes under his belt and looks excited to be working under Pep Guardiola.

It’s been a bright start for the forward and hopefully it will only get better from here on in!

Flying Under The Radar Could Suit Conte’s Chelsea!

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Antonio Conte’s arrival at Chelsea has been somewhat overshadowed by managerial heavyweights Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola taking up the reigns at the two Manchester clubs.

Those two sides along with Arsenal are the three favourites with the bookmakers to take the Premier League crown come the twenty-first of May next year. Chelsea are fourth in line as far as the main bookies are concerned.

But the London side could be happy that not many pundits and punters are fancying them at this early stage.

Conte will be happy to go under the radar and change things around for Chelsea before concentrating on anything like title talk.

There hasn’t been a squad overhaul as many had predicted at the end of last season. They may have finished in tenth spot last term and missed out on European qualification but it’s quite clear that the current Chelsea squad are still strong and last season was probably more of a blip than being the new norm.

Let’s not forget that many of this squad captured the Premier League trophy back in 2015. Last season was more about disillusionment and discontent with life under Mourinho than suddenly not being good enough to compete or challenge at the very top.

Former player of the year Eden Hazard has a lot to prove this year. The exciting forward had a miserable time of it in 2015-16 but he ended the campaign strongly and he needs that form to continue this term. One of Antonio’s first tasks as Chelsea manager was to convince the Belgian maestro to stay and become the main man again at the Bridge!

Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa, Oscar and Nemanja Matić also underperformed last season but all have the qualities to influence the biggest of games and swing them in Chelsea’s favour if they are on top form.

Conte has come in and he’s brought with him a gruelling fitness regime that should have his stars playing at their peak within a few weeks of the season starting. The players will already know that the Italian is the boss and that he isn’t a gaffer that will accept anything less than 100%.

The former Juventus and Azzurri manager is a proven winner with a strong track record of success.

He has brought in the dominant N’Golo Kante, the holding midfielder who helped Leicester City to their first ever top flight triumph last season. Throughout that campaign for the Foxes, Kante would often be one of their main players who would make key interceptions, make numerous vital tackles and pass the ball on to the flair players. Antonio Conte loves nothing more than footballers who can become warriors on the pitch and be extremely disciplined. In that regard Kante fits the bill perfectly.

Young Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi has joined from Olympique Marseille. The twenty-two year old bagged seventeen goals in Ligue 1 last year. His raw ability and scoring prowess has had some Chelsea supporters already comparing him to former goalscoring hero Didier Drogba. Whether or not he’s ready to lead the line on a regular basis at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League remains to be seen. He could be seen as the ideal super-sub, especially if Chelsea’s moneymen can persuade Everton to sell Romelu Lukaku back to the club.

I’d imagine that Chelsea will also be looking to bolster their central defensive options with Kurt Zouma still out injured. As we know club captain John Terry isn’t getting any younger, while question marks still surround Gary Cahill and his ability being of the standard that you’d expect from a really top centre-back.

Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado has returned from his loan spell at Juve. For anyone who has watched the twenty-eight year old in Serie A or playing for his national side they will have undoubtedly noticed that he can be a game changer and create numerous chances for his teammates. If he can get up to speed with English football and settle into this Chelsea side, then he could become another key squad player for Conte (a known keen admirer of Cuadrado).

The Italian manager will no doubt have his defence well disciplined and playing like a strong unit again. He will also protect them with the likes of foot-soldiers Matic and Kante playing just in front of them to win the ball back as soon as possible.

Not many teams in the league have quite as many strong creative talents as the Blues. If those attackers can all work to their full potential then they can create and score plenty of goals in this upcoming season.

It will be vital for Antonio Conte to get his full squad believing in themselves again and go on a winning run that can put pressure on other possible title challengers. Last year they were disconnected and lacked passion, Conte won’t stand for that under his regime.

They have another bonus in the fact that they will not have the distraction of the Champions League, or any European football for that matter. That should see them being one of the fresher sides in the English top flight and all efforts will be fixed on bringing the league title back to Stamford Bridge.

As everyone looks to Manchester for the eventual Premier League champions of the 2016/17 season, Antonio Conte will be drilling his troops day in and day out with the objective to upset the odds and be the ghosts that take top spot.

So don’t count them out!

John Stones Has It All To Prove At Man City

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John Stones has been labelled as one of the world’s best defensive prospects and he’s just completed a massive £47.5m transfer to Manchester City.

His new boss at City Pep Guardiola stated:

“We want to help John show his quality with us and improve on what he has already achieved. I like the way he plays the game and I’m looking forward to welcoming him into the squad.”

But the young defender wasn’t given a rousing send off from his previous club’s support. Many an Everton fan were glad to get the massive fee for a player who clearly wanted to leave Goodison Park.

Had it been the previous summer then the Toffees faithful might have been a bit more upset by his departure. But after Everton repeatedly turned down big money offers from Chelsea (then managed by Jose Mourinho), they didn’t seem to have the same player within their ranks.

Last term Stones disappointed and failed to reach the same standard he had in previous seasons. Too many silly mistakes had crept into his game and he would be too easily outmuscled off the ball in certain situations.

Even though he was selected by Roy Hodgson to go to the Euros this summer, John wasn’t used. That seemed a damning verdict given England’s troubles at the back. But then again maybe he’s fortunate not to have played as he might not be scarred by the poor showing in France.

Stones isn’t the usual blood and thunder type centre-half that England usually produce. He’s quick, likes to intercept and can come out with the ball from defence and pass it forward.

That reputation sometimes hampered him last term as he would sometimes get caught out or misplace a pass rather than just booting the ball out of play. But as he matures he’ll hopefully learn when the time is right for a pass and when it’s right just to play it away from your own goal as quickly as possible.

Obviously players will make mistakes but it’s extremely important that they learn from them and make as few as possible. The more one makes the more they and the fans become nervous and expect the mistake rather than anything else.

At Everton, Stones was probably a victim of playing under a boss who didn’t appreciate the full art of defending. Roberto Martinez was ultimately sacked for failing to get the best out of his defence and shoring up in that position properly in the transfer market.

But have we not said similar things about Man City’s defence in recent seasons? We have often seen the City defence crumble when they are missing club captain Vincent Kompany, who is unfortunately becoming increasingly more injury prone as the years go by.

Stefan Savic, Matija Nastasic and Eliaquim Mangala have all been young up and coming defenders who have had chances to shine for City yet were all found to be wanting!

A huge bonus for Stones is that Pep seemed desperate to have him at the Etihad.

Stones will be encouraged to build from the back and use his pace to cut off dangerous attacks. His passing accuracy often touches the high eighties and we all know the importance Guardiola places on passing successfully within his squads. That’s why he often moves midfielders into central defence, maybe a tactic that wouldn’t work as well in the English Premier League hence his eagerness to capture Stones.

Last season John Stones played like a confused young player who wanted to leave Everton and didn’t really understand what his manager expected of him.

He now needs to show Manchester City and the rest of the footballing world that he’s worth the huge transfer fee and worth all the fuss. In Pep he will have a boss who will believe in him and play him to his strengths.

Stones just needs to reward him with calm, mature displays!

 

Time Right For Adnan Januzaj To Leave Man United

Adnan_Januzaj

Back in the season of 2013/14, Adnan Januzaj was one of Manchester United’s bright spots in an ultimately dire campaign that set the club back a few years.

But the young Belgian international winger hasn’t made much of an impact since that inspiring first season at Old Trafford.

He was rushed into the 2014 World Cup and looked out of his depth. His erratic play and his real unwillingness to adapt cost him starting places at Man Utd during Louis van Gaal’s tenure in charge of the Red Devils.

Last August eye-brows were raised as United decided to loan him out for the season to German side Borussia Dortmund, many thought that the Manchester side may end up ruing that decision. But alas Januzaj didn’t deliver at Dortmund, where he make only six substitute appearances in the Bundesliga. United recalled him back in January due to his lack of appearances but then only made five appearances for Van Gaal’s side and he was missing from the FA Cup final match day squad.

If Adnan was hoping for better things under new boss Jose Mourinho then his hopes were quickly dashed as the Portuguese gaffer gave the Belgian’s much coveted number eleven jersey to Anthony Martial and also demoted Januzaj to train with the reserves. A quick return to the United first team looks unlikely with players like Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Memphis Depay, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Martial all ahead of him in the pecking order.

The youngster has supposedly described himself as being ‘Humiliated’ after Jose’s treatment of him.

But in all truthfulness he has to look at himself and wonder if his career has stalled due to his own failures to learn and evolve as a player. He hasn’t managed to convince at international level, he wasn’t deemed good enough at Dortmund and now a second Man Utd boss feels he’s better off leaving on loan rather than have him at Old Trafford fighting for his place in the first team squad. At twenty-one years of age and after two disappointing years, a place in United’s reserve squad isn’t beneath him!

But in fairness to him, it seems as though Januzaj knows his time at Man Utd is near its end and he wants to leave on a permanent deal. While it seems that the hierarchy would prefer him to join Sunderland for a year.

Going to the Stadium of Light would see him reunite with David Moyes, the boss who got the best out of I’m in 2013/14. The former United boss has already just completed the permanent transfers of Man Utd kids Paddy McNair and Donald Love in a £5.5m swoop.

Those familiar faces and playing for boss who believes in him could indeed get the best out of the twenty-one year old but would the fear of going back to Old Trafford prove to be a distraction? Especially if he feels unloved there.

There’s a belief that the United board are scared that they could sell the promising winger and then regret it like they did with Paul Pogba, who has just returned to the club in an £89m world record move. But people forget that Pogba chose to leave and left because his contract ran out and he decided against signing a new one.

With Adnan, they could sell him for a decent fee and then include a few favourable clauses in the deal that would give them first refusal, a buy back clause and a percentage of the next transfer fee if they chose not to re-sign him. Again I should point out hey couldn’t do those things with Pogba because of the way he left. At least if they choose to sell Januzaj they’d then be able to do a better deal that would benefit themselves in the future.

I honestly believe that it’s best for all concerned that Adnan Januzaj leaves Manchester United permanently this summer. It gives the player a clean slate and probably a reality check that he needs. It would also benefit him to have his future sorted out and he can just concentrate on doing his best for his new club. Going out on loan continuously can hamper a lot of younger stars who become disillusioned with football as they feel unwanted by their parent club.

Adnan Januzaj is currently not the future of Man United, others have come in and taken his spot and have preformed better. He may have a case to suggest he was slightly mismanaged by Van Gaal but he also has to look at himself and question whether or not he made things worse with certain personal decisions and his inability to change.

But none of that changes the fact that he isn’t wanted at Man Utd and it really looks like he doesn’t want to be there now either.

Quite A Few Positives For Celtic During Opening Weekend

CP Front

I think Brendan Rodgers and his new Celtic team will come into work today happy with what they saw at Tynecastle yesterday.

Celtic managed to edge out Hearts in Scotland’s capital with a hard fought 2-1 victory. By no means did the Scottish Premiership champions have it all their own way, Hearts gave them a good game but Rodgers will feel that only makes his stars sharper for the season ahead.

A big plus for the new Hoops boss would’ve been the performances of captain Scott Brown and winger James Forrest.

Last season Brown often looked slow and unfit but yesterday he seemed reinvigorated and ready for the challenges that lies ahead. He was once again bossing the midfield, jumping into challenges and getting into the faces of the opposition. He looked like the Scott Brown of old and that’s the player that Rodgers wants in his midfield engine room.

Most of us had thought that James Forrest was leaving Celtic Park this summer. He seemed to hint as much when he rejected a new deal back in February. His career seemed to have stalled under previous boss Ronny Deila. But Brendan Rodgers seems to have wiped the slate clean for Forrest, told him to earn a better contract at Celtic and to star for the team. He started well yesterday and like Brown seemed to have more energy about his game and worked hard up and down the line. He was rewarded with his well taken opening goal that he himself started with a jinky run before receiving the ball back at the edge of the area and stylishly curling it beyond Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton.

Forrest should look down the River Clyde and see what Mark Warburton has done to turn Barrie Mackay’s career around. It was thought that Barrie’s time at Rangers was up but then Warburton arrived, played the youngster and gave him freedom to express himself. It looks like Rodgers could be willing to give Forrest that same opportunity, it’s just up to the Scottish international winger to grab it with both hands.

Now caution has to prevail here, after all it is just the first game of the season and both players have tailed off after bright starts in the past. But if they play with the same intensity week in and week out then Celtic will have saved a fortune and the Scottish national team will benefit too.

It would have also been pleasing for the new management team to see Kolo Toure get ninety minutes under his belt. I think Toure is a smart signing for the Hoops as he has vast experience and still has the pace to cover the ground when needed. His performance yesterday was well assured and very composed, that’s the reason he’s in there.

I think the Celtic fans will have been impressed with Rodgers substitutions and change in tactics during the tight encounter. While the game was on a knife-edge at 1-1 and Hearts were beginning to have a bit of superiority, Rodgers was brave and changed things to a more attacking 3-5-2 formation. That positive change worked as Celtic would grab the winner with just nine minutes remaining.

Obviously the debut goal from match winner Scott Sinclair was a huge confidence booster for the English forward. There’s no doubt that the twenty-seven year old has plenty of ability and pace but he needs to add consistency to his game. That will no doubt happen at Celtic as Rodgers knows what type of player he is and will give him valuable minutes on the pitch. He has forked out big cash because he believes in the player after all.

Sinclair’s goal was all about the run and cross from fellow striker Leigh Griffiths, who may not have scored himself but did plenty of work for the team’s cause. Griffiths picked up the ball just inside his own sides half. He then managed to burst down the left wing beating two Hearts players with his pace, before looking up and picking out Sinclair with a great cross and the new signing just had to usher the ball over the line. Superb runs from both forwards and a superb work ethic by Celtic’s number nine.

As I say it wasn’t a perfect performance but it was a fine start to the league campaign. I think an easy 5-0 win would have been detrimental at this stage for Rodgers as that can allow a false confidence to creep in and for the side to fall at the first sign of trouble. Hearts were robust and put up a decent fight and that showed the Celtic manager and the clubs fans that the team are willing to compete for a victory and chase for the winner.

The fact that Rangers and Aberdeen slipped up during the opening round of league fixtures is just a nice wee added bonus!

Will Man United’s New Man Mourinho Bring Title Back To Old Trafford?

Old Trafford

The new Jose Mourinho era at Manchester United has started with a trophy as his new side outperformed Premier League champions Leicester City to win the Community Shield at Wembley.

But let’s not forget that David Moyes managed the same feat when he took over at Old Trafford three years ago and that tenure didn’t end well for United or Moyes.

That being said, Jose isn’t known as the ‘Special One’ for nothing and he’ll be hoping that his rebuilding project at Man Utd can provide instant success.

His arrival has been seen as a big statement by the bookies and they’ve been made second favourites with odds starting at around 18/5 on them winning their first league title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Community Shield match winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a warrior leader who loves to win. His goal against Leicester puts all rival defences on notice as he can be quiet throughout a game and then pop up with a vital goal. The Swedish superstar certainly doesn’t lack confidence and is priced at 10/1 to end the season as the Premier League’s top goalscorer.

The imminent return of Paul Pogba will be huge for United. He’s the player that they had who looked like the natural heir to Paul Scholes throne, a midfielder who offers you everything from the engine room, yet he left without much fuss a few seasons back. Paying over £100m to get him back, shows that Mourinho really wants to solve the issues Man United have had in central midfield for the past few years.

As this transfer window nears its conclusion the £26.3m signing of playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks a real snip. The Armenian international was sensational at Borussia Dortmund last season, scoring eleven goals and creating fifteen assists in the Bundesliga. So you can only imagine that many a Fantasy Football gamer will have Mkhitaryan in their starting line-up.

Against Leicester City, Eric Bailly showed he’s a raw competitor who has plenty of potential. The centre-back looked good in the tackle and remained composed throughout. Mourinho helped mould Raphael Varane and Kurt Zouma into great young defenders and Bailly looks to be the next to shine under the Portuguese boss.

After the win over the Foxes, Jesse Lingered remarked that United’s new manager had told his forward players to play with more freedom and that could really help the side. Too many times under Louis van Gaal (United’s previous boss),  the team looked stifled and possibly concentrating too much on defending instead of going all out attack to win games. Those negative tactics also frustrated the life out of Red Devil fans and they’ll be hoping that Jose can continue these fluid looking tactics. That’s United’s history after all.

If United are to once again mount a serious bid for the title and even win it, then a lot will depend on the manager. Jose has been there and done it all before. He usually gets an instant impact and has most of the players buying into his methods. He will be hurting after his sacking at Chelsea last term and will be hoping he can prove any doubters wrong (again). Mourinho provides plenty of entertainment and is a popular betting option for the savvy punters. You can get him at 5/1 to win the LMA manager of the year award. While he’s priced as high as 100/1 to be the first boss to lose his job during this campaign.

As ever it will be a tough task to win this title.

Rivals Manchester City are currently the bookies favourites at around 13/5 to clinch the title. They are in buoyant mood after finally getting Pep Guardiola to take up the helm. The Spaniard will hope to get City firing from the get go.

While Chelsea have the impressive Antonio Conte as their new manager and the Italian has plenty of firepower to call upon, new signing N’Golo Kante shoring things up in midfield and no European distractions.

Once again Arsenal and Tottenham will be there or thereabouts and also look out for a Liverpool challenge lead by Jurgen Klopp.

Now many of you will be desperate to part with your cash and put it all on Manchester United winning everything but please I urge safer gaming. Remember that gambling can be an addiction and if you feel you have a problem seek proper help and advice.